In Depth

NBC Wraps Upfront Deals With 11% Volume Increase -- Secures Price Hikes Between 7.5% and 8%

By Jeanine Poggi
Advertising Age

NBC has wrapped its annual upfront negotiations for ad time in the upcoming TV season, the network said.

The dollar value of those commitments was roughly $2.5 billion, a person close to the negotiations estimated. That's up 11% from a revised estimate of $2.25 billion last summer, according to the person. Original reports from last year pegged NBC's ad commitments in the 2013 upfront at $2.1 billion.

The company said it had improved its ad rates relative to its rivals. "We are very pleased to have led the market in both rate of change and volume growth this upfront," NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said in a statement. "We also have made tremendous progress in correcting our historic monetization gaps. Through significant investments in our programming, the turnaround at NBC and our strategy to approach the market as one portfolio, we are confident that we are well positioned as leaders moving forward."

The network entered the upfront negotiations seeking to use its improved ratings to achieve price hikes. It secured increases in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers -- the industry measure known as CPM -- between 7.5% and 8%, according to the person, which is on par with last year's price hikes.

NBC sold about 80% of its available inventory for the upcoming TV season, also in line with last year. It will sell the rest in the so-called scatter market, where advertisers buy time closer to the air date.

Once again, NBCUniversal went to market as one portfolio, selling broadcast, cable and digital assets together. The entire portfolio secured nearly $6 billion in ad commitments, according to the person familiar with the negotiations.

ABC said Friday that it had largely completed its upfront deals.

The alphabet network declined to provide guidance on pricing and volume, but said it was pleased about where it landed, secured "appropriate" volume and is "well poised" to sell the remaining inventory in the scatter market.

ABC secured price hikes between 4% and 5%, according to a person familiar with negotiations. That's down from the 7% to 8% increases it garnered in 2013.

Last year ABC secured total dollar commitments that were even with or slightly below the $2.2 billion it secured in 2012. In this year's negotiation, total volume is believed to be down from 2013, according to media buyers.

CBS has also essentially completed its upfront negotiations, but declined to provide insight into the total ad commitments secured and pricing.

"As we near the finish line, we are very confident that CBS has once again achieved the highest pricing and most total dollars in the upfront marketplace," the company said in a statement. "Agencies and clients continue to value the strength, stability and delivery that we provide as a pure-play broadcaster, and we are very pleased that in addition to C3, C7 is now playing a meaningful part in our negotiations."

Powerful ad buyer GroupM agreed early on to do more deals on a C7 basis, meaning it would pay for commercials seen over the span of seven days, instead of the industry-standard C3.

Fox and the CW are still in the process of negotiating ad time for next season.